La Maison Guerlain: The World's Most Luxurious Fragrance House

Guerlain’s flagship store at 68 Les Champs Elysées has essentialized opulence since its establishment in the early twentieth century. With its ornately gilded façade and sparkling interior, the house is a City of Light in itself. Now, after nine months of restoration in honor of its 100th anniversary, La Maison Guerlain is more luxurious than ever before. It has doubled its size, making it the world’s largest fragrance house (1,600 square meters, four levels), and completely revamped its ever glorious interior.

2 The Renovations

Guerlain’s refurbished maison now greets its visitors with signature golden bees (a signature of Napoleon’s crest) hanging from the entrance hall ceiling. A space formerly known as the “pop-up” store left of the house’s entrance is now attached to the main boutique, and a new marble staircase at the “pop-up’s” back leads to an underground floor where one finds Guerlain’s new gourmet restaurant, Le 68.

On the first floor there is a new perfume bottle museum, and silver now covers the first story corridor walls. The other rooms on the first floor now have wall marquetry mimicking the pattern of Guerlain’s bee bottles. Guests will not be disappointed by the fact that there is still a “perfume organ” displaying a range of scents, but it has a different, Art Deco lotus design (shown below). Walls near the “perfume organ” display Guerlain’s most exclusive fragrances. Adjacent to this central area is a new, smaller room for private perfume consultations. The meeting room has five hundred bee bottles filled with gold liquid and are set against two walls.

The first floor also has a new “couture” room, where Guerlain sells gloves by La Maison Fabre, silk fans, and silk scarves bearing the company’s motifs. Each accessory is scented with either Mitsouko, or La Petite Robe Noire, the primary notes of which are meant to last at least one year.

The second floor (the mezzanine) housing the Beauty Institute has not been touched, save for new treatment cabins. All classified objects (Maison Guerlain is, in fact, a French historical monument) remain the same. That means the historic boutique’s marble panels, counters and staircase are in their original state. Only the ceiling has a new mirror securing four new chandeliers by Baccarat. The scintillating effects of light on glass and crystal, including several of Sylvie Guerlain’s perfume bottles, are meant to recall an epitome of French regality. Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors; Guerlain has dubbed this space “La Gallerie des Glaces.” King Louis XIV’s plaster effigy at the end of the hall reinforces the reference.

1 The Products and Services

Maison Guerlain’s luxuriance epitomizes the richness of its heritage. It’s also central to the Guerlain experience as a whole: “all the senses must be stimulated by beauty and the extraordinary,” the house says. The Maison Guerlain offers its clients one of the vastest selections of high end skincare, makeup, and luxury fragrances in the world. It often reinterprets its classic perfumes and keeps coming up with new, highly complex scents that embody French elegance.

Spring, 2014 welcomes a sweeter, fruity-floral version of the original La Petite Robe Noire (French for a staple of Parisian fashion: “The Little Black Dress”). The new fragrance, crafted by Thierry Wasser, is called La Petite Robe Noire Eau de Parfum Couture ($81.00 1.6 oz) and will be found in most high end department stores and Guerlain boutiques around the world.

February, 2014 will see a softer, more ethereal version of 2009’s Cherry Blossom ($280 4.2 oz). This delicate pink perfume is presented in a new, ribboned bee bottle and celebrates Paris in springtime; for each spring, Guerlain comes out with a new perfume in the Aqua Allegoria line.

Customers will also find classics, like Shalimar and Jicky, in half and full litre bottles embellished with Guerlain bees ($280-$500+), in honor of the bee bottle's 160th anniversary.

Testing a Guerlain perfume at La Maison is a ritual in itself. A customer sprays a fragrance on a black paper fan, or a glass heart wand and waves it under the nose. Of course, discerning customers know that applying scent to the skin is a must.

For those who want something entirely different there are “bespoke fragrances” and “private collection” perfumes; custom creations made to reflect the individuality of each commissioning client. The luxury of fragrance tailoring began over two centuries ago, when the brand’s founder Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain began composing singular perfumes at the request of elite clients, among whom were Queen Marie-Amélie of France, Emperor Napoleon and Empress Josephine, author Honoré de Balzac, and Empress Eugénie, the wife of Emperor Napoleon III.

The art of customizing fragrance is still reserved for the few, as Guerlain’s are the most expensive custom fragrances in the world.

Each “bespoke fragrance” involves close collaboration between client and Director of Fragrance Development, Sylvaine Delacourte as well as three months of preparation. When the perfume is finished it is presented to the client in a Baccarat bottle (there are several shapes to choose from) tied with a ribbon of one’s choice and sold for $20,300.

Guerlain’s “private collection” is for those who don’t have time to get involved in the customization process. Each year the house takes just ten orders for singular creations, fragrances that are like no other Guerlain ever made. The formulas are top secret, and when each private perfume is sold its recipe is destroyed. Only a few Guerlain perfumeurs in the world offer to make private fragrances, which typically cost $30,000 per Baccarat bottle.

Clients also receive the royal treatment at Guerlain spas around the world. The Beauty Institute on the second floor of La Maison Guerlain has been one of Champs Elysées’ main attractions since the spa’s founding in 1939. At this time the company developed its unique massage, mingling Asian and Western protocols with Guerlain science. The technique remains exclusive today. Guerlain is always introducing new ways to pamper each client at the Beauty Institute according to his/her individual needs (stress reduction, muscle relaxation, etc.).

The blissful pampering one receives at the spa, which lasts over an hour, always opens with a cup of relaxing tea and a foot soaking/massage. The client gets a face treatment with some of Guerlain’s world renowned skin care products (the Orchidée Impériale line, $170-$1,520, is seen in the picture above), then lies under a heated blanket for the body treatment. The Guerlain experience is truly multi-sensual, all encompassing, different for each client, and unforgettable. That’s one reason the brand is so well-known and trusted.

So, a visit to the new Maison Guerlain is definitely worth a trip to Paris this year. If you do go, don’t neglect to visit the company’s new boutique in the Cour des Senteurs at the heart of Versailles’ oldest district and within walking distance of an epitome of French luxury – the Palace of Versailles. The new store is a tribute to Guerlain’s former service to royal courts, a model of French craftsmanship, and a meeting place for perfume lovers to meet and share their pleasures.

While you're there don't forget to test the new floral perfume crafted in honor of the boutique Cour des Senteurs Versailles. Jasmine, Marie Antoinette’s favorite flower, dominates the composition of this gold fragrance. Not surprisingly, its bee bottle features a royal crimson ribbon and a gilded emblem of Louis IV as Sun King.

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